Pointing out Insights and advice from pharma leaders  

Insights and advice from pharma leaders  on digital marketing

“HCPs are always looking for trustworthy information that is concise and digestible” — Linda Valenta

Not so long ago, conversations on medical education and life sciences digital marketing centered around a coming digital transformation. World events have now firmly thrust the digital age in pharma upon us. With this in mind and continuing with our series of insights and advice from industry leaders, SciencePOD presents highlights from our interviews with Linda Valenta, Dan Davies, Haider Alleg, and Renaud Sermondade.   

Linda Valenta

Linda Valenta, Global Director of Healthcare Innovation at Boehringer Ingelheim     

How do you think technology is helping pharma to deliver value to HCPs and meet customer needs?    

To be completely frank, I think that technology in pharma is still in its infancy in terms of meeting customer needs. There are certain isolated examples across the industry where people are doing things well, but these are largely exceptions within the wider industry. One example is included in the case study we conducted, where we use technology to listen to our customers, and better understand their needs.    

This involves using artificial intelligence or machine learning to understand physician conversations around attitudes towards disease areas and products. If we listen better to our customers, then this is the first step in being able to better address their needs.  

In your case study, you discuss the role of interactive guidelines in enhancing the abilities of HCPs to help asthma patients to manage their condition. How are the guidelines interactive, and how did this enhance patient outcomes?   

HCPs are always looking for trustworthy information that is concise and digestible. For GPs, any one set of guidelines for just one disease can be 300 pages long, and if you consider the number of diseases GPs have to treat, this becomes quite unmanageable.    

We followed user experience design principles to break the guidelines down into digestible pieces. Physicians could choose if they wanted to access a 1-minute summary, a 20-minute summary, or a deep-dive 1-hour summary. We also included something fairly new for the pharmaceutical industry and enabled the GPs to interact with the guidelines through video and infographics to make them more useable, useful, and engaging.   

The guidelines are evidence-based and scientifically balanced, so providing them in such an accessible way means that physicians can really get the most out of them for patient benefit. In our case study, the guidelines are for asthma treatment, but this approach could be applicable to any disease area. We deployed these interactive guidelines in the UK, Germany, and Spain, and by collecting extensive feedback we found that they were very popular with physicians. In the space of 5 months, we had approximately 10,000 unique physicians using the guidelines. The 20-minute version of the guidelines was the most popular. This was surprising, as we had expected that the 1-minute version would be the most popular, given how busy most physicians are.  

Do you think there needs to be a move away from traditional marketing, or can traditional methods be mixed with digital?   

If by traditional marketing we mean the sales force model, we need to make sure that our marketing mix includes all the new channels available to us. So, if our most-used channel previously was a face-to-face sales force, I don’t think that we should stop doing that, but it needs to be supplemented with other channels. Our customers are exposed to information through multiple channels every day, and every good marketeer needs to make sure that these are in their marketing mix.   

Most importantly, we can do a really good job of truly listening to our customers and addressing their needs with digital tools that support their practice and further their trust in our companies and products.   

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Dan Davies, Head of Customer Marketing at Sanofi 

Dan DaviesHead of Customer Marketing at Sanofi 

How do you think technology is helping closed-loop marketing in pharma? Do you think it is hindering it in any way?   

I don’t think technology is hindering closed-loop marketing. However, the focus needs to be centered on ensuring technology works as intended, as it can provide a lot more insight than relying on human feedback alone. In my experience at Sanofi Pasteur, we’ve taken a very active approach to our customer relationship management. We have been using the CRM Veeva, for 7 years, and our experience is that as long as the technology is set up correctly, the insight you can gain is much richer than ever before.   

For instance, we can get insight into the time that each representative spends on each presentation and the slides that they spend more time on, and we can also judge customer reactions to what is being presented. This insight is then fed back to Brand teams to assist in future content development.  

What do you think is the biggest challenge for pharma when it comes to closed-loop marketing?   

Maintaining a valued conversation, which is underpinned by gaining your customer’s consent for Direct Marketing, thus allowing companies to communicate relevant information about their goods/products and services. Maintaining a quality conversation is based on the value that the customer experiences which in turn creates a new challenge – the challenge of content creation and maintenance.   

As in all industries, customers will really only give you consent if you’ve got something of real value to offer. So, you’ve got to create content in order to get their consent, and only then can they really perceive and understand the value of your offering. This conundrum is a major limiter on maintaining the conversation with customers.  

How can future-proof systems be designed to help with closed-loop marketing in pharma?   

If we look at the future in terms of what our software and customer relationship manager can offer, the industry is experimenting with new ways to deliver content as an experience, from 3D animations and virtual reality to self-directed learning experiences where users can navigate a journey on their own.   

We still need to work out which of these new technologies is going to have a place in our future arsenal. Furthermore, we need to make sure that we are aligning these new technologies with what customers really want. Sometimes customers need to access the simplest information in just a quick and easy format.   

I have a genuine passion for this area of our business. It’s a space within the pharma industry that is relatively new and exciting. I like the direct focus on customers and figuring out the best way to communicate with them, and sustaining relationships while providing extra value that ultimately positively impacts patients’ lives.   

Haider Alleg, Global Head of Digital Excellence, Ferring

Haider Alleg, Global Head of Digital Excellence, Ferring  

How do you think technology is helping pharma meet customer needs?   

The adoption and use of technology are often perceived as reserved for IT people. This is a positive thing and a negative thing, because when it comes to my area, which is more on the business side, people think that technology could be very useful, but they can’t just jump into it. I don’t like it when technology is presented as a blue or red pill. I do like it when it is an underlayer in business solutions when it is not seen but provides added value, and this is how I believe technology can provide the cultural shift that we need.  

What do you think is the biggest challenge for pharma when it comes to digital marketing?   

Two things. One is that we are currently educating people on marketing tactics that are really ten years old. However, our doctors, consumers, and patients are accustomed to the latest tech trends, such as Spotify and Netflix. The problem I have is explaining to organisations that try to keep up with the latest technological trends is very hard. Trying to anticipate where we will be tomorrow requires some faith. That is one of the biggest challenges because people don’t know what they don’t know.   

We need to make things simpler – the guy that is 15 years old today will be the patient of tomorrow, and this guy trusts a chatbot more than older patients would. Digital marketing is an enabler in that it can help us change the behaviour of the people we have in front of us. At the same time, it creates hype, and we need to keep catching up with that hype. This should not be our goal. Instead, we should aim to build something more meaningful based on clinical evidence which helps our doctors do a better job.  

Can you discuss the importance of patient privacy and data security in this context?   

Data protection is currently a hot topic. No company wants to suffer a data breach. However, my take is that instead of trying to become a data or tech company, I think pharma companies should instead rely on an ecosystem of people who are already good at doing this.   

These could be big guys like Microsoft or Google, and they could also be smaller players. Some of my colleagues are investing in data training and there are companies going in that direction. In my opinion, such a cultural shift would take too long to bear fruit, and I would prefer to show the fruits of the partnership first. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t revisit this in 5–10 years and reassess if we need to be a data-driven organisation.   

I want them to understand the variety of stakeholders involved in pharma. As we progress towards a data-driven culture, understanding how to make the best decisions, this is where I hope [to] glean some useful information. For instance, I don’t just want to do data mining, I want to listen to my market. We need to shift the way we look at this information and how we challenge our partners. Someone might say “Come and partner with me, I have great data.” However, we need to start asking about data quality. How old are these data? Do you have patient consent? Is the data interoperable?  

 It is useful to be exposed to people who see the world completely differently from yourself, especially now that new players are entering the arena, such as big tech and start-ups.  

Renaud Sermondade

Renaud Sermondade, Global Head of Insights and Analytics, Sanofi 

What do you think is the biggest challenge for pharma when it comes to building collaborative cross-departmental cultures?   

The challenge comes from the evolution of the pharma business model and the increase in interdependencies required for tasks that used to be the responsibility of one department. In terms of a 360-degree view of the customer, this needs to be owned jointly by marketing and medical professionals to create an integrated customer journey. We need to think about enabling MCE, and this is now a shared responsibility for Marketing, Digital, Market research, IT, and SFE. The inherent challenges involve the allocation of resources with joint ownership, compared with a clear-cut RACI model.  

Over the next 5 years, where do you see the biggest opportunities in digital marketing in pharma?   

The biggest opportunities can be defined under two headings. The first concern doing new things, and digital marketing should be a new channel of interaction, that can provide new solutions to complement our product offerings. The second involves changing the way we work using digital marketing, from the orchestration of customer touch-points, and real live measurements of impact, to using machine learning to optimise our marketing mix and messaging on a monthly basis compared with the usual annual brand planning exercises.   

We should see all of the digital innovations as a new way of doing marketing and not as stand-alone tasks performed by a single team. We also need to understand that the marketers of the future need to be the orchestrator of all things digital…Nobody has successfully cracked the code yet because the obstacles are cultural, technical and financial. However, a collaborative mindset is likely to be key for success. 

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